MADISON SQUARE GARDEN — The Rangers fell to their rival New Jersey Devils Wednesday night, 3-2, to knot their hot-blooded playoff series at a game apiece.
Despite two power-play goals from the Blueshirts in the second period, the Devils and future hall of fame goaltender Martin Brodeur denied New York the chance to take a commanding lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The 40-year-old Brodeur made 23 saves — not allowing the Rangers a goal at even strength — as the series now heads over the Hudson River to resume on Saturday.
The seesaw battle saw New Jersey take the lead in the first period when Ilya Kovalchuck beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a power-play strike, followed by the Blueshirts’ pair of goals from defenseman Marc Staal and rookie winger Chris Kreider in the second period.
But the Devils responded with a goal at the end of the second to tie the game, followed by the game-winner from New Jersey winger David Clarkson in the final period.
Rangers fans Kyle Diamond, 26, and Andy Seth, 24, both from New York, were downhearted as they left the Garden after the game, but still believed the Rangers would eventually win the seven-game series.
"Hey, we were outplayed, " Diamond lamented. "They had more energy than us, but I think the series will be tied 2-2 by the time it gets back to the Garden next week."
But jubilant Devils fans Paul Masino, 25, and his brother Rob, 29, who traveled from Connecticut to watch the game, were confident New Jersey would go on and win the series.
"Tonight was all about Devils hockey," Paul said. "It was all about no surrender. We never gave up from the get go. Watch out Rangers — we're right back in it."
As the disappointed Rangers filed out of the Garden Wednesday night, the only sound that could be heard was the flute of Thaddeus Adams, a local musician who's performed for years outside the arena.
"Man, I never heard this place so quiet before, and I've been playing here for over 20 years," he said. "I sure hope they win again soon so I can see some happy faces coming outta' this place."